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text 2017-06-01 18:35
May 2017-Round up!
Boo! - David Haynes
The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge - David McCullough
Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen
Black Mad Wheel: A Novel - Josh Malerman
Those Across the River - Christopher Buehlman
Saffron And Brimstone: Strange Stories - Elizabeth Hand
Dare Me - Megan Abbott
The Well - Jack Cady,Tom Piccirilli
Between Two Fires - Christopher Buehlman
Skitter - Ezekiel Boone

In May, I read 15 books! 

 

Graphic Novels:

 

The Dark Tower: The Little Sisters of Eluria

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger-The Battle of Tull

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger-The Way Station

 

Total: 3

 

Audio Books: 

 

The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, narrated by Bruce Springsteen

Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman

Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman

Dare Me by Megan Abbott

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

 

 

Total: 6

 

E-ARCS:

 

Skitter by Ezekiel Boone

Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman

 

Total: 2

 

Random Books: 

 

Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse

The Well by Jack Cady

Boo! by David Haynes

Saffron and Brimstone: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand

 

Total: 4

 

Total Books Read in May: 15

 

Reading Challenges

 

Horror Aficionados Mount TBR Challenge: 

(Horror Aficionados Group on Goodreads)

Goal: Read 40 books I already own in 2017

 

January Count: 1

February Count: 2 

March and April Count: 0

May: 2 (Boo! and The Well)

Running Count: 5

 

Coolthulhu Crew 2017 Challenge: 

Goal: Read Horror Books!

 

January Books: 5

February Books: 3 

March Books: 4

April Books: 9

May Books: 6

 

Running Count: 27

 

 

Graphic Novel Challenge:

 

(Paced Reading Group on GR)

Goal: Read 25 Graphic novels in 2017  

 

January count: 5

February count: 2

March count: 5

April count: 5

May count: 3

Running count: 20

 

Keep Calm and Read On!

 

 

 

 

 

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review 2017-04-07 12:55
Loved this so much
Wylding Hall - Elizabeth Hand

I'm almost done with March's reviewing and then I only have some comics to get done, which I can talk about a day!   So easy.   I'm going to force myself to catch up before I read anything new, and that's a good incentive: if I slack off too much, I fall behind on comics and I have a huuuuge stack of comics I want to read really badly. 

 

That being said, I've regretted not immediately reviewing Wylding Hall.  I feel like my best reviews are usually written right after the book, riding that high or anger-fueled snark that lingers but isn't quite the same as time passes.  I will, however, try to do this book justice.  On the most basic level, it's a fictional biography of a band, and what happens when their lead singer disappears right after recording their second album; years later, the band members, manager, and even the girlfriend of one of the band members tell their stories.   A local boy joins in later on, as the band was secluded in a mansion to focus on recording; only later on does the boy come into play, but, boy, is he relevant!

 

And this doesn't do the book justice at all, because it's so much more than a biography, or a way to use multiple view points.  It's also a mystery, fantasy, and horror, layered upon each other.   And while normally multiple viewpoints - especially this many - feel overcrowded, and even pointless at times, Hand handles them all with aplomb.   Not only that, much like she layers the genres, she layers the stories: each person brings something new, something to hook the reader, and each layer brings with it new understanding, a subtle disquiet and unease that sustains this whole thing.   

 

It's eerie in the way an Algernon Blackwood story is: full of wonder and horror, awe inspiring, but with no real gore or even violence throughout.   (There are images that bring about horror, like this one particular room, but the violence is never carried out in the novel itself.)

 

Folk songs are a pivotal part of this story, and with it comes the art of storytelling.  This could be too much of a wink, too heavy handed, too meta because it was about the artist and thus too self-involved.   It is not.   Every time Hand tells us something about the art of storytelling via folk songs, it's integral to the story, tells us something about the way we tell stories - rather than being about the artists, and it all adds up to the general malaise in this novel.   Given how much is packed into the short novel we get here, the scope is absolutely breathtaking.   And given how little time we spend with these characters, there is so much that could go wrong: they could be unlikable as Hand focused on the point of the story she tells, or they could be sacrificed at the alter of cardboard cutouts.   They are not.  She could focus on the characters, and allow that general creepiness to falter.   She doesn't do this either.  Instead, the masterful balance she achieves always comes back to make us aware that even the quiet moments are only the calm before things get creepy as fuck again. 

 

This story has stayed with me, not in an ever present, I can't get it out of my mind way.   I've been a little preoccupied, though.   It's stayed with me in that when I think about it, I am once again taken away to Wylding Hall, to the little moments that just build and build upon one another.   Every time I think about this book, I am more and more impressed with what Hand's done here: the amount of time, energy, detail.   The research, the weaving together of these separate tales into one cohesive whole... 

 

I've written before, so I know how handling something of this sort can be mind-bogglingly difficult.   And I'm not even going to pretend I'm nearly good enough to weave together something as intricate as Hand here, but it's not my result that's important here: even the attempt makes me appreciate just how delicate a story like this is.   And it makes it even more effective for me, I think.   And it's not that I was thinking this while reading; no, then I was 100% into the story.   It was when I was forced to stop reading - to work, to eat, to talk to people - that I turned my thoughts to all the ways this story could have gone sideways in the hands of a lesser writer - like me.   

 

Instead, Hand gives us something that works in every way.   Full characters, a lush and dangerous world and place, and an ending that sent shivers down my spine.   Love, love, love. I will be reading more Hand very soon.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-10-01 17:28
Reading progress update: I've read 387 out of 387 pages.
Waking the Moon - Elizabeth Hand

So I finished it.  More or less.  I confess I skimmed and skipped from about page 270 to 350, then read to the end.

 

Was the effort worth it?  Probably not, but it's done.

 

There were two reasons for the skim-and-skip.  First, I still couldn't get myself interested in the characters.  I never established a connection with Sweeney, and almost all the others were unlikable.  (Annie, the lesbian folk musician, was the closest to a sympathetic character of them all, and she was too minor to carry the book.)  Second, there was too much violence.  I don't deal well with violence.  And this was -- to my standards, anyway -- excessive and graphic violence.

 

Spoilers abound here, so consider yourself warned.

 

Summary of the action:

 

After the whole big scene at the Divine that results in Sweeney's expulsion, Oliver suicides and Angelica disappears.  Sweeney accepts this gracious invitation from Angelica's father, and he sets her up with another university.  She graduates, gets a semi-cushy government job, stays in Washington DC, but virtually loses contact with the three remaining members of the group:  Baby Joe, Hasel, and Annie.

 

Almost 20 years later, the action picks up again when Sweeney discovers -- as though she's been under a rock all this time -- that Angelica has become a self-help cult figure of mythic proportions, leading a new "religion" of the Goddess.  She's Jim Jones on steroids, with this magic necklace to give her almost unlimited power over life and death.  She seems to prefer the death part, making monthly new-moon sacrifices at her lavish retreat in Arizona.

 

She's working up to the biggest, baddest-assed sacrifice of 'em all.  To consolidate her power as The Goddess -- with a bunch of names, of course -- she's planning to sacrifice the son she conceived by Oliver before the latter's death.  This son, Dylan, is now 20-ish, and is working as Sweeney's intern at the museum in D.C.  Despite the yawning difference in their ages, they are lovers.  Sweeney knows Dylan is Angelica and Oliver's child, though Dylan believes his father is Angelica's now dead Italian husband.

 

So it's all a kind of sick, semi-incestuous relationship that gets mixed up with murder/sacrifice and bizarre magic, leading eventually to a huge confrontation in the Shrine -- I'm assuming that's a kind of church/cathedral type thing on the campus of the Divine -- between Sweeney, Angelica, and Annie.  Sweeney and Annie prevail, Angelica disappears without explanation, and the whole thing ends up with the ruthless, patriarchal, patronizing, self-righteous Benandanti once more in charge of the world, because after all, there's a bad side to the Goddess, so She had to be defeated.

 

Oh, and Oliver is now a woman.

 

Forty-year-old Sweeney is pregnant, and she and her twenty-year-old lover Dylan -- Oliver's son -- live happily ever after.  I guess.  I'm not really sure, because the Goddess is still there, looking down on them.  I guess that means she's not really defeated after all?

 

I don't know.

 

And I hate books that end like that.

 

I came away with a feeling of frustration and anger not just because of the ambiguous ending, but because I felt there was a strong element of deception.  Maybe it wasn't intentional, and maybe I just didn't understand the book, and maybe there was some tiny detail in those 80 or so lightly read pages that would have made it clearer, but the impression I got was that author Hand was one of those "the one is as bad as the other, so we might as well stick with the patriarchal devil we know than risk that the alternative might just possibly be worse."

 

Hand cites certain writers as providing material for the book, and as I mentioned in another status update, I have a lot of those authors' works on my shelves.  And yes, I've read them, among many others on the subject.  The idea that patriarchy sprang fully-armed from a horde invading Europe from "the northern steppes" is one I'm familiar with, though Marija Gimbutas, one of the main proponents of the idea, didn't make very clear (in the works I read) why patriarchy was indigenous to this particular group or how they developed it.  Hand seems to have taken this concept and turned it into hard fact:  that no matter what ills they brought to the world, these male god worshiping nomadic tribesmen also brought all goodness and light and civilization.  And we should all thank them and their male god that they destroyed the power of the matriarchal/matrilineal goddess who was nothing but evil.

 

Sound familiar?

 

The writing, as I said earlier, is lovely, often tending more than slightly to the purple but in keeping with the overblown concept of the tale.  Other than that, it's a wallbanger.  I never did connect to the characters, and most of them I retained an active dislike for.

 

But it more than fills a Bingo square, so I guess that's the consolation.  ;-)

 

 

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text SPOILER ALERT! 2016-09-29 18:19
Reading progress update: I've read 199 out of 387 pages.
Waking the Moon - Elizabeth Hand

Yesterday was not a good day for anything other than reading -- too many interruptions and too much anticipation of more interruptions. So I got in some reading.

 

Spoilers ahead, and maybe a trigger warning for animal death.

 

The reading still requires great effort, and still for the same reasons:  Who am I, the Reader, supposed to connect with? and what the hell is going on?

 

The book is divided into three parts, titled "Departure," "Absence," and "Return." 

 

"Departure" covers Sweeney's brief tenure at the University of the Archangels and Saint John the Divine, a roughly nine-week stint during which she does little but drink, smoke, do drugs, and hang out with an assortment of very, very weird characters who mostly do the same thing.  Maybe she was traumatized by the murder (?) she witnessed at the elite reception.  I don't know.  She sees a lot more weird stuff, nightmare/horror movie weird, including animal sacrifice (I had to skip the details of that because I don't deal well with that kind of thing) and an attempted suicide.  But the POV seems to have settled firmly into Sweeney's hands.

 

The middle section "Absence" is very short, all in Sweeney's POV, and covers the transition from her expulsion from the University (aka "the Divine") to her establishing a career at some museum.  After being kicked out of the Divine on trumped up charges -- drugs, which everyone else was doing -- she transfers to another school, gets her degree, and puts all the bullshit behind her.  Sort of.  All of it is engineered by one of the Benandanti.

 

There is a scene toward the end of "Departure" in which one of Sweeney's friends, Annie, explains some of the background as to what's driving all the action, and some of the background on the Benandanti.  Annie, who claims her cousin was murdered/suicided by the Benandanti, identifies them as the philosophical/religious descendants of the marauders who descended "out of the northern steppes" of Europe tens of thousands of years ago and wiped out the bloodthirsty matriarchal/matrilineal culture that existed at the time to forcibly replace it -- not just in Europe but around the entire world -- with the patriarchy that built all the buildings and wrote all the books and created all the art and made us the civilized beings (??) we are today.

 

This brief mention (pages 127-128) is the only clear reference up to this point to what all this is about, and if the reader doesn't bring some background in this to the reading, I do not know how they would ever be able to understand what's going on.  I guess you'd just have to read it and take everything for granted, maybe shrug it all off as a horror story or something.

 

(Author Hand makes reference to the historical benandanti in her "Author's Notes" at the end; they were real, though nothing like the organization (??) she fictionalized.  And when I suggest that the average reader might be lost navigating this novel, I note that many/most of the authors whose works she cites are residents of my own library.)

 

Having reached roughly the halfway point, I seriously considered giving up.  I didn't like anyone in the story.  None of the characters appealed to me at all, and I had a very uncomfortable feeling about the author's objective in writing the book.  When I started to write this update, I was so unsure of my reaction that I cheated by looking at some of the reviews (not GR or Amazon) posted.  The review from Kirkus confirmed my unease.  This may be an award-winning book, but the premise is, for me, very unsettling.

 

Will that premise be carried through to the end?  I don't know.  I will keep reading, but all my instincts are on guard.

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text 2016-09-27 17:47
Reading progress update: I've read 95 out of 387 pages.
Waking the Moon - Elizabeth Hand

The chapter starts with Sweeney lamenting "If I had only known what was going to happen, maybe I could have stopped it.  Or maybe it would have happened anyway."

 

This lasts two short paragraphs, and then we switch back to Magda Kurtz's POV.  It looks like Magda is going to be one of the bad guys in this, but who knows?

 

 

 

So far, Magda has committed two murders. neither of which has raised any eyebrows.  One of the victims was a fellow archaeologist on a dig; one would imagine that regardless what happened, someone would have come to exhume the body -- it was buried in an excavation cave-in -- and discover the cause of death had nothing to do with the collapse of the trench walls.  The second was apparently a young drifter (??) in Greece, and she left his body for the authorities to find in a low-rent pension.  Again, the gruesome manner of death would have screamed for an investigation, and just because she skipped the country doesn't mean she can't be found and hauled in for questioning.

(spoiler show)

 

Once again, time frame is confusing, and there's no continuity.

 

If it weren't for Halloween Bingo and certain stubbornness on my part, this book would have been DNF at least 50 pages ago.

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